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Rookies of the Week – Week 1

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The return of the NFL season really had everything. Shock results, devastating injuries, struggling superstars, and outstanding rookies.

Let’s look at my standout seven from Week 1.

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Will Anderson Jr, Edge – Houston Texans

Emotions may have gotten the better of Anderson pre-game, but he was zoned in as soon as he stepped on the field to start his NFL career. The versatile rusher, who lined up predominantly on the left side, recorded four tackles, three hurries, two quarterback hits, and a sack against the normally elusive Lamar Jackson.

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Jalen Carter, Defensive Line – Philadelphia Eagles

Now that’s why he was touted as potentially going first overall! A 92.1 overall PFF grade puts Carter as the 2nd overall defensive tackle, and it’s not hard to see why. In a monstrous performance, Carter had eight pressures, one sack, and one assisted tackle. It’s no wonder that Mac Jones will be seeing him in his nightmares.

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Zay Flowers, Wide Receiver – Baltimore Ravens

Does Lamar Jackson have a new favourite weapon? Flowers continued his strong preseason with an outstanding showing against the Texans, and much like the later mentioned Bijan Robinson, he was making defenders miss all over the place. Nine catches on ten targets for 78 yards led the Ravens, while he also had two rushes for nine yards.

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Xavier Gipson, Wide Receiver – New York Jets

It’s the stuff that dreams are made of! No one saw the Jets game winner being an undrafted rookie free agent, but here we are. He forced his way into contention due to his electric preseason on special teams, which caught the eye of head coach Robert Salah. Now, thanks to his 65-yard walk-off punt return touchdown, he can now say he is the AFC Special Teams Player of the Week.

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Puka Nacua, Wide Receiver – Los Angeles Rams

If you were asked to predict the only rookie receiver to go over 100 yards this weekend, I can guarantee no one would have mentioned Puka Nacua. With Cooper Kupp now on IR, the Rams needed someone to step up, and their fifth-rounder did just that. 14 targets, 10 receptions, and 119 yards. Job done.

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Anthony Richardson, Quarterback – Indianapolis Colts

Richardson wasn’t perfect by any means, as he played conservatively and had an ugly interception, but he is now the proud owner of two NFL records. Against the Jaguars, Richardson not only became the youngest player ever with a passing and rushing touchdown in the same game, but he also became the first rookie in history to have at least 200 passing yards, 40 rushing yards, a passing touchdown, and a rushing touchdown.

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Bijan Robinson, Running Back – Atlanta Falcons

A shared snap count with Allgeier didn’t count against Bijan on Sunday, as he finished with 10 rushes for 56 yards while adding six receptions on six targets for 27 yards and a touchdown in the passing game. Add in five forced missed tackles, including that disgraceful stop-start on an attempted tackle from Frankie Luvu, and you’ve got yourself a debut.

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Week 10 and 11: Rookie Standouts

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It’s been two weeks since one of my rookie roundups, thanks to a lovely bout of flu and sinusitis, and a lot has changed in that time. Firstly, I’m going to give a brief rundown of who would have made my week 10 rookies, and then let’s focus on week 11’s before our lineup of Thanksgiving football feasts later on.

Week 10 Standout Rookies 

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Christian Watson, Wide Receiver – Green Bay Packers 

8 targets, 4 receptions, 107 yards, 3 touchdowns. Nuff said 

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Myjai Sanders, Edge – Arizona Cardinals 

A breakout game against the leagues worst OL. Two pressures including a sack-fumble and three run stops. 

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Charles Cross, Tackle – Seattle Seahawks 

0 pressures from 42 pass blocking snaps makes this his best performance of the season. 

Right, let’s move on to the rookies that stood out in week 11. 

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Tyler Linderbaum, Center – Baltimore Ravens 

It’s very difficult sometimes to fully appreciate how important it is to have a solid, reliable center. They don’t play a flashy position, and they rarely show up on the stat sheets despite having to both initiate each play and manipulate the defensive front depending on the play call. Despite this, I thought it was about time we spoke about the standout centre from this year’s rookie class, Tyler Linderbaum.

Linderbaum, despite experiencing some early teething problems, has improved week after week to quickly become a dominant force for the Ravens, especially on rushing plays. Baltimore averages 162.8 rushing yards per game, and Linderbaum has an impressive 77.6 PFF rating in run blocking, including a 74.1 rating this past week against the Carolina Panthers.

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Chris Olave, Wide Receiver – New Orleans Saints 

On draft night, the Saints knew they needed a wide receiver, and Olave was clearly their guy as they traded up five spots to select the Ohio State alumni, giving up their own 16th pick as well as picks 98 and 120. I think it’s fair to now say that they have been able to ratify their decision as Olave continues to be a standout player on their offense. 

After finishing week 11 with five receptions for 102 yards (an average of 20.4 yards per reception) and a touchdown, the Saints rookie is now ranked in the top 15 in most of the major receiving statistics. He’s tied for 15th in receptions with 51, tied for 12th in first down conversions with 34, and is 10th in receiving yards with 760. A lot of his extra targets can likely be attributed to the injuries suffered by Thomas and Landry, but at least the Saints know they have a more than competent number one going forward.

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Aidan Hutchinson, Edge – Detroit Lions 

The Lions completely dominated the Giants this past week (much to the annoyance of this writer), but credit where credit is due, it was fully deserved. Defensively, the Lions stifled everything that the Giants had to offer outside of a few chunk plays that came after the Lions were already almost out of reach, and one huge contributor to that was Aidan Hutchinson. 

Hutchinson, who has since been crowned NFC defensive player of the week, has already made this rookie standout list before and week by week is proving his credentials in the race for defensive rookie of the season. Against the Giants, he finished the game with a pass defense, three tackles, a fumble recovery, and an interception. The interception was his second of the season, making him the second player in NFL history with two interceptions and five or more sacks in his first 10 career games 

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Four Takeaways From The Out-Matched New Orleans Saints Primetime Defeat

Gone are the days of a game like this being a primetime slug-fest between two teams with great talent and even greater expectations. 

The Saints were out-matched almost from the get-go in primetime last night against the Ravens, and sadly, I think this is only the start.

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This Offense Does Not Work Without The Running Game

It’s been clear for some time that this Saints offense goes as the running game does. Last night was a crippling reminder of that. Without it, you are expecting a 35-year-old Andy Dalton to function with Chris Olave and Alvin Kamara to throw, too, and that’s about it.

It was clear from the first drive the Ravens wanted to make the Saints one dimensional, they sold out to stop the run game, and they achieved that on the first drive. The Saints had a second and three, followed by a third and one. Usually, that’s exactly where the Saints want to be, they couldn’t convert, and it wasn’t close.

What happens when the offense has to pass, and the defense knows it? The defense blitzes, and the Ravens did that last night with great effectiveness. Getting to Dalton early and often with creative blitzes, especially on third down.

The Saints finished 3-11 on third down after entering the game as one of the league’s better third-down offenses. That was massively down to effective blitzes and not being able to run the ball as effectively as they have in previous weeks.

The blueprint is out on the Saints offense. HC Dennis Allen and OC Pete Carmichael Jr need to know that and adjust otherwise, teams will be loading up all season, and there will be plenty more offensive displays like last night.

The Saints Miss Michael Thomas

Many of you are reading this and thinking, well,… obviously.

To some, it wasn’t obvious. There was some thought that this offense would be fine with Chris Olave as the number one WR, and that’s about it, and the receiver position.

To some extent, I could forgive people for thinking that, since Dalton has taken over as the starter, the passing game has been far more effective than we have seen the last two seasons. Alvin Kamara has come to life in the passing game as we would’ve always expected, and the running attack has led the way for the offense.

However, last night it was clear as day why a player like Michael Thomas is so important. When the run game is shut down, and the Saints have to pass, they need someone else who can get open quickly on third downs and in the RedZone to give Dalton a quick outlet to go to when the defense does blitz.

Outside of Olave, that just wasn’t there last night. Marquez Callaway did have one filthy route in the RedZone at the end of the first half that should have been a TD.  Unfortunately, Dalton just flat-out missed him, but that is not a consistent enough occurrence. Callaway then pretty much disappeared for the rest of the game. 

Getting Jarvis Landry back should help a lot. His game meshes much more with the Dalton-led offense than the Jameis Winston offense. Him returning and being effective is no longer a luxury it is essential.

The Defense Still Struggles Against Mobile QBs

If you look at the box score, you may think they didn’t do that badly.

At face value, they didn’t, and with some better tackling, the stats would have looked a lot better. This was an improvement to previous games against QBs with similar rushing ability to Jackson. The issue is this team has to allocate so much attention, concentration, and resources to stopping this part of the team’s offenses that everything else falls by the wayside.

Both safeties blow a coverage because they paid so much respect to Lamar and the rushing attack. One led to the Ravens’ first TD, and the second left a wide-open TE to convert a third and long.

The numbers don’t show it, but Jackson could do whatever he wanted in the passing game. In fact, if he didn’t miss three of four wide-open WRs, the score and the passing game stats would have looked a lot different.

At this point, I don’t what this team can do to fix this issue. It’s been a problem every year, even throughout their dominant run as one of the league’s best defenses. This team is not one of those dominant units. 

I’m starting to wonder if the Saints prototype of massive DEs who win with power rather than speed could be a reason. Where the DEs take a little longer to win, it’s easier for QBs to escape, and even if they do win quickly, it seems easier for the more nimble athletic QBs to escape and make the play when they really shouldn’t be able to.

The Injuries Are Still Piling Up

The hits keep coming to this team. They’ve already played much of the reason without Michael Thomas, Jarvis Landry, and Marshon Lattimore.

Just as you think the Saints are starting to get back to good health, Erik McCoy, Pete Werner, and Marcus Davenport left last night’s game with injuries.

Losing any of these players for extended periods would be brutal for this team. All three are crucial to the team’s success. 

McCoy is the anchor of the o-line, which, as we’ve already discussed, is crucial to this team’s effectiveness. It also means a lot of juggling on the line. Cesar Ruiz would move to Center, where he did play in college, but Ruiz’s improvement at RG this season has been so good the team could really do without moving him. Then to replace Ruiz, the Saints have Calvin Throckmorton, who played well with limited expectations last season but has struggled so far in limited snaps this year.

Pete Werner has been playing at an all-pro level so far this season, and the team’s depth behind him is shaky at best. They’d be forced to play Kaden Ellis more, who’s done well so far this season in a very specific role. How he’d do with a more expansive role remains to be seen.

Although Marcus Davenport’s sack numbers have not been there so far this season, he’s still leading the team in pressures. Losing him would be a real hit to an already limited pass rush. Similar to the point made about Werner, the team’s depth is fairly shaky begins Davenport as well. Payton Turner has shown some improvements in the last two games. Again how he would do with more responsibilities as the team’s main, base DE remains to be seen.

Either way, these are questions this team could really do without. The margin for error is already so small with this team. Add to that three key starters not being available, it only gets smaller.


There are no more if, and’s, or buts. This team is what their record says it is a 3-6 football team with more questions than answers. Somehow, they are only one game back from the lead in the putrid NFC South.

There’s still a path for the team to make the playoffs, but it is wafer thin, they need to win all the games they should ( and there are not many at this stage) and win a couple on paper they shouldn’t, and even that might not be enough.

It has to start next week against the similarly dysfunctional Pittsburgh Steelers and go from there. Either way, Saints fans, protect yourselves. Temper expectations, enjoy the highs whenever they come, and take the lows for what they should be at this point. Expected.

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Analysing Three Key Matchups For Saints Vs Ravens

There is newfound hope around this New Orleans Saints season, for that to continue they need a strong performance on Monday night when the 5-3 Baltimore Ravens come to town. There are three key matchups the Saints need to be on the right side of on Monday night for that hope to continue.

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Alvin Kamara Vs Roquan Smith And Patrick Queen

The Saints offense runs best when their best gets the ball early and often. Since Andy Dalton has taken over at QB for the Saints that’s happened, he’s fed Alvin Kamara as much as possible. With Dalton as the starter,  Kamara has played four games and is averaging 17.75 rush attempts per game and 8.5 targets per game. Pretty much 25 touches per game.  He’s amassed 323 rushing yards and 268 receiving, an average of 80.75 yards rushing and 67 receiving yards per game, equally 147.75 scrimmage yards per game.

What that should illustrate is how effective Alvin Kamara has been this season with Dalton starting. 

The Ravens on paper have two very good Alvin Kamara erasers (if there is such a thing). Right in time, the Ravens traded for Roquan Smith from the Chicago Bears, Smith is one of the better coverage LBs in the league and one of very few LBs in the league with the athletic profile to match up with Kamara. (4.51 40 time) 

Since entering the league Smith has 8 interceptions and 11 PBUs, whilst only allowing 3 touchdowns in his coverage, equalling an 83.6 passer rating when targeted, that number is even more impressive this season sitting at a 69.0 passer rating allowed when targeted.

His expected starting partner Patrick Queen is no slouch either, running a 4.5 40 time, however, a fast 40 does not mean you are an elite coverage player at LB. he’s been a bit more streaky in converge so far in his NFL career. In his NFL career so far he has allowed 6 touchdowns whilst in converge and has 2 interceptions and 3 PBUs, equalling a 108.5 passer rating when targeted. He’s faired slightly better so far this season by only allowing a 92.7 passer rating when targeted.

Despite this improvement, he’s been targeted a lot in the passing game, so far this season he’s been targeted 46 times, surrendering 38 receptions for 387 yards, a massive 279 yards of those have come after the catch. Something we’ve seen all of Kamara’s career is he is smooth and effective as anyone after the catch.

This is a really interesting matchup for Kamara this week, both Lbs have the athletic profile to keep up with AK and both are used in coverage a lot, Kamara against an LB is a matchup the Saints will always target but they might have to tread carefully this week, especially against Smith.

Saints Run Defense Vs Lamar Jackson

Anyone who’s watched the Saints indecent year knows that this defense, as good as it’s been against the run, has struggled massively against mobile QBs. Well, that will be tested again this week against the best running QB in the league, Lamar Jackson.

This season Jackson 553 rushing yards at an average of 7.4 yards per rushing attempt. His 553 rushing yards are 140 yards more than the Saints leading rusher ( Alvin Kamara). 

In their two matchups this season against rushing mobile QBs, the Saints defense allowed Marcus Mariota to rush for 72 yards on 12 attempts (6 YPC) and Kyler Murray rushed for 30 yards on 7 attempts (4.2 YPC).

This might not sound too bad, however, to combat the threat of these QBs rushing, the Saints have to deploy a much more conservative pass rush plan, that focuses more on keeping the QB in the pocket and less on sacking the QB. In both those games combined they pressured the QB 13 times, in the Raiders game alone the Saints had 22 pressures. 

This defense goes as the pass rush does, if the front 7 are getting after the QB the Saints defense effectively they are far better than if they are not, that’s not groundbreaking information but it doesn’t make it any less true.

The final, unfortunate consequence of the additional attention the defense is paying these QBs is that the RBs on those teams seem to have more success than they might have usually. Take the two games mentioned earlier Cordarrelle Patterson rushed for 120 yards at 5.4 YPC and Eno Benjamin rushed for 92 yards at 7.6 YPC. 

There is one way the Saints can turn the tide in their favour against Lamar’s rushing ability, forcing fumbles. Jackson has already fumbled 4 times this season on running plays, in his 4 seasons prior to this year he averages 10.75 fumbles per year on rushing plays. 

This has to be an area the Saints attack with Jackson on Monday, but with great care, one failed attempt at striping the ball could allow Jackson to break free for a massive gain.

Saints Slot Defender/s Vs Mark Andrews 

The Ravens are fairly thin on receiving threats, however, they do have the best receiving threat at TE in the league outside of Travis Kelce, in Mark Andrews.

To add to Lamar’s elite running ability he is also one if not the best passer in the intermediate area of the field (10-19 yards). So far this year Jackson has completed 66.7% of his passes when throwing between this yardage, for 502 yards,4 touchdowns and zero interceptions. These throws have averaged 11.4 yards per attempt.

If we look just specifically at the intermediate middle part of the field Jackson is completing 65.5% of his throws for 292 yards, 2 touchdowns and zero interceptions ( 10.1 yards per attempt). The reason I highlight this particular area of the field is this is where Mark Andrews does much of his damage, he’s one of the best players at attacking the seams in the NFL. 

Andrews has run 66.4% of his snaps from the slo0 so far this season, so it’s going to be interesting to see who the Saints use to cover the slot this week, it sounds like Marshon Lattimore will be out again this week. Leaving Paulson Adebo and Alontae Taylor to start at outside corner.

Andrews is a bit banged up he was listed yesterday as a DNP at Thursday’s practice, Ravens HC John Harbaugh has said that Andrew’s injuries are not serious, but anytime someone is listed as DNP, with multiple injuries ( shoulder and ankle in Andrews case) it is something worth monitoring. 

Leaving Chris Harris Jr, Justin Evans and P.J. Williams ( who’s expected to activated off IR this week) as the most logical options. Harris and Evans have both struggled so far this year, although Harris had a much better game last week, he is still one of the oldest starting DBs in the league.

P.J. Williams has had success in the slot previously but has since transitioned to playing more safety than CB. Personally, I’d still be tempted to give with Williams there this week, due to his more physical style of play and being the bigger of the three players.

Size does matter in this matchup, Andrews is a monster standing 6” 5  and weighing 247lbs per PFF. which is why you’d usually find a safety matched up on someone of this size. The Saints biggest coverage player would be safety Marcus Maye, but that would still be a size disadvantage and Andrews would likely relish the matchup from a coverage standpoint. This plan would mean Tyrann Mathieu would have to play more snaps as the deep safety has proven to not be the best way to deploy him so far this season.

Therefore as a hybrid safety/CB for me, P.J. Williams looks to be the best option 1 on 1, however, with the Ravens lack of weapons on the outside I’d expect Andrews to be double-teamed plenty this game.

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Week 8: Rookie Standouts

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We’re almost at the halfway point of the season, and as expected, many rookies are getting opportunities due to trades, injuries, and inconsistent form. Here are three rookies that stood out this week.

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Isaiah Likely, Tight End – Baltimore Ravens

As discussed in my first ever Full10Yards article, Isaiah Likely was the Ravens’ second tight end drafted on Day 3, but in minicamp and OTAs, he had already started to separate himself from the pack. The biggest issue that Likely would face, though, is being behind two-time pro bowler and all-pro Mark Andrews.

So, when Andrews, who was already dealing with a knee injury, landed awkwardly on his shoulder and was ruled out after 10 snaps, it was Likely’s time to shine, and shine he did. Likely slotted straight into Andrews’ shoes, catching six of his seven targets for 77 yards and a touchdown, in which he showed great body control to keep himself in bounds. With Andrews now dealing with multiple injuries, this breakout couldn’t have come at a better time for the Ravens.

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Malcolm Rodriguez, Linebacker – Detroit Lions

The Lions are currently sitting at the bottom of the pile in the NFL overall standings, and despite some initial optimism spurred on by their stint on NFL Network’s Hard Knocks, they look to be yet again not getting anywhere near the postseason.

It’s not all doom and gloom, however, as Aiden Hutchinson has already made this list before, and though production has slowed, he’s still been a disruptive force. Now you can add Hard Knocks’ favourite Malcolm Rodriguez to the list.

He was arguably the best defensive player for the Lions in Sunday’s loss to the Miami Dolphins, as he recorded his first-ever NFL sack, jointly led the team with seven tackles, and recovered a fumble forced by fellow rookie Kerby Joseph.

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Garrett Wilson, Wide Receiver – New York Jets

With questions swirling about the future of Jets quarterback Zach Wilson after another rough showing, it’s another Wilson who took the headlines this week. Garrett Wilson made the most of his limited targets (seven) and showed exactly why he should be the team’s number 1 receiver and should be targeted more often, especially seeing as the Jets threw the ball 41 times.

Against a New England Patriots cornerback unit that includes rookies Jack Jones and Marcus Jones, both of whom are in the top ten for the lowest completion rate, Wilson took his lowly seven targets, caught six of them, and recorded an impressive 115 yards, making him the 2nd Jets rookie ever to have two 100 yard plus games in a season, behind Ring of Honor member Al Toon.

Honorable Mentions

Sauce Gardner (New York Jets), Greg Dulcich (Denver Broncos), Martin Emerson (Cleveland Browns), Ikem Ekwonu (Carolina Panthers), Tomon Fox (New York Giants)

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Five Things: Week 6 – Baltimore Ravens at New York Giants

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The Giants’ confidence was sky high after coming off the massive high that was the shock win against the Green Bay Packers in London. Unfortunately, they once again started slowly and, although they walked away with the win here to take their record to 5-1 it wasn’t without drama. Let’s take a look at five things that stood out this week:

Convincing? No. Deserved? Yes.

Offensively, in the first half, the Giants looked largely off the pace as Balitmore constantly kept us from sustaining a drive. Aside from the touchdown drive, which was sparked by Gary Brightwell’s 47-yard kick-off return, the Giants had 14 plays across four drives, including two 3 and outs and one drive at the end of the half that ended with a fumble and recovery, albeit on a meaningless hail-mary attempt.

Continuing the recent trend, we were much better in the 2nd half of the game on both fronts, with the offence converting in the redzone when needed, but again it was the Wink Martindale-led defence that stepped up to the plate late in the 4th quarter. Time was running out after trailing for most of the second half. The breakthrough was made after the Giants secured their first interception of the season and a forced fumble plus recovery on the following Ravens drive, which ultimately stopped their potent attack from scoring again.

The Achilles Heel

As great as it was to get the win, we can’t ignore that for the majority of the game, the Ravens’ rushing attack and their tight ends were having a field day against our linebackers as they gave up chunk play after chunk play.

The Lamar to Mark Andrew connection was in full flow throughout the game, topped off as Andrews hauled in a touchdown early in the 4th quarter. He finished with 106 yards on 7 passes, for a ridiculous 15.1 yards per reception.

On the ground, both Lamar and Kenyan Drake had our number. The journeyman running back, Drake, sliced through our defensive front time and time again, finishing with 119 yards on 10 carries and a touchdown. Jackson had 77 yards himself on 7 carries, meaning they combined for almost 200 yards at a rate of 11.5 yards a carry.

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Rookies Show Up

It’s been a slow start for some of our rookies thanks to niggling injuries. First rounder Kayvon Thibodeaux only made his debut in week three, and second rounder Wan’Dale Robinson was returning to the line-up after suffering an MCL injury in week one.

Robinson was the first of the rookies to make an impact as he caught a dart from Daniel Jones to tie the game up at 7-7.

Next up was Bellinger, who ended the game as the Giants’ leading receiver with 38 yards on five receptions. He also added a touchdown in the middle of the fourth quarter, which took his touchdown streak up to two games in a row.

Lastly, Thibodeaux was a menace all game and consistently got within grasping distance of Lamar Jackson but couldn’t get that elusive first career sack. Just when it looked like it wasn’t going to be his day, he got himself a nice double towards the end of the game as he recorded not only a sack but his first forced fumble too. The icing on the cake for him will have been that it was essentially a game-sealing play.

Barkley and Jones Tough It Out

Both Barkley and Jones came into today’s game nursing slight ailments, with Barkley still feeling the effects of the shoulder injury he sustained in last week’s London game and Jones dealing with both a niggling ankle injury and a scabby turf injury on his hand. On the surface, it looked like Jones’s injury barely bothered him, though it was clear he didn’t have that burst of speed he’d shown in the weeks prior, as he failed to take advantage of some of the holes the Ravens’ defence afforded him.

Barkley, on the other hand, was clearly feeling the effects of his shoulder injury as he had a quiet day compared to the lofty standards he has set for himself so far this season. His longest rush of the game was only 8 yards, as although he carried the ball 22 times, he finished with 83 yards and a touchdown against what had previously this season been a porous Ravens run defence.

Love’ly Jubbly

As mentioned before, the Giants didn’t have a single interception coming into today’s game, and when Fabian Moreau dropped what looked like an easy interception after Mark Andrews’ drop/deflection of a Lamar Jackson pass, it looked like it would never come. Enter Julian Love.

The fourth-year safety from Notre Dame, who leads the Giants in tackles this season alongside cornerback Adoree Jackson, had already made an important play in the 1st quarter, denying what looked like a sure-fire touchdown to Demarcus Robinson by launching himself in front of the receiver. The most important play, though, came late in the fourth quarter, with the Giants still down by three points. Lamar Jackson fumbled a snap and after recovering it, he threw an ill-advised pass up into the air, which Love gratefully accepted and returned 27 yards to the Balitmore 13-yard line. Four plays later, the Giants took the lead, and after Saquon Barkley’s smart football play to slide down before the endzone, the Ravens never saw the ball again.

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Rookie Roundup: Minicamp and OTA’s

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It seems like an age has passed since the end of minicamp, but the light at the end of the tunnel is finally in sight. July 18th sees the rookies from the Buffalo Bills and the Las Vegas Raiders as the first players to report for preseason training camp, with all players, both rookies and veterans, reporting by July 26th.All rookies will need to maximise the opportunities they are given this preseason, with rosters needing to be trimmed from 90 players at the beginning of camp down to the final 53 on the 30th of August.

As always, there will be a selection of rookies that had starting jobs from the moment their names were announced on draft day. However, there will be a few on the cusp of a starting role or trying to work their way onto the first team depth chart.

Let’s look at six rookies who, after their showings at OTA’s and minicamps in May and June, may have already started to force their way into contention.

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Christian Watson, WR, Green Bay Packers (Round 2, Pick 2)

Wide receivers are frequently overlooked by the Green Bay Packers in the first two rounds. In fact, Watson was the first they have taken since Devante Adams, the man he could potentially have been drafted to replace. He hasn’t shown any signs of the pressure getting to him, however, as he quickly built a connection with the current MVP, Aaron Rogers, by catching a deep ball during their first practise together, before continuing his trial by fire by lining up opposite Pro Bowler Jaire Alexander. It’s a promising start that, should it continue during training camp and preseason, could result in a starting position.

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Boye Mafe, EDGE, Seattle Seahawks (Round 2, Pick 8)

Mafe looks like he will be continuing the upward trajectory his career has taken so far. After starting at Minnesota with limited opportunities, he ended his collegiate tenure with an outstanding performance in the Senior Bowl in which he had three tackles for loss and a pair of sacks, one of which included forcing a fumble. Mafe has picked up where he left off and is already starting to catch the eyes of the Seahawks coaching staff, including Coach Carroll, who said, “He’s really talented. He’s the closest looking fit to Cliff Avril that we’ve seen. ” High praise indeed, being compared to the ex-Superbowl champion and Pro Bowler, and all this before he has put on the pads yet.

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George Pickens, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers (Round 2, Pick 20)

With Pickens only being able to play 4 games in his final season at college due to an ACL injury and given that multiple teams were apparently turned off by stories questioning his maturity and lack of discipline prior to the draft, it wouldn’t have surprised anyone if Pickens entered OTAs with a chip on his shoulder. Instead, he put his head down and got to work, making sure he could line up wherever the Steelers wanted him, something he did constantly during his tenure with the Bulldogs. It didn’t take long for him to show the Steelers coaching staff what he could do, making a spectacular bobbled catch on a pass that would have likely been too high for most receivers.

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Nakobe Dean, LB, Philadelphia Eagles (Round 3, Pick 19)

In what could end up being the steal of the draft, the Eagles were able to pick up the free-falling Dean after concerns regarding injuries and his perceived undersized body. Dean has immediately shown off both his versatility and football IQ by learning both the MIKE and WILL positions to ensure that he can contribute straight away. There has even been chatter amongst the local reporters that the rookie will end up wearing the green dot on his helmet, taking up the responsibility of communicating with the coaches and replaying the plays, which would also suggest he will be spending a lot of time on the field.

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Daniel Bellinger, TE, New York Giants (Round 4, Pick 7)

It is very rare to see a midround pick spend extended time with the starters, but that is exactly what has happened to Bellinger, and by all accounts, he has grasped his opportunity with both hands (pun intended). After being used as more of an extra offensive lineman at San Diego State and with the Giants’ signing veterans Seals-Jones and Akins in the offseason, it appeared that Bellinger would have to battle just to get a depth spot. However, he immediately impressed tight end coach Andy Bischoff. “He’s one of those rare guys today that can really do it all. He can block, he can protect, and what we want him to do is get open against man coverage. He can do all those things.”

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Isaiah Likely, TE, Baltimore Ravens (Round 4, Pick 34)

Standing out amongst a class of 11 rookies was always going to be a tall task, but that is exactly what the fourth-round tight end has done. Likely was the second tight end the Ravens drafted on day three and was taken only 11 picks after Charlie Kolar, but he seems to have separated himself from the pack by displaying his large catch radius and ability to get open. In the last minicamp session, Likely caught multiple touchdowns in red zone drills, but one, an incredible one-handed touchdown, caught the eye of Lamar Jackson, who remarked, “It was a tremendous catch, so the sky’s the limit.”